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Chapter 4:

  • Incorrect reports of the battle of Shiloh
  • -- Halleck assumes command in the field -- disagreeable position of Grant -- siege of Corinth -- evacuation of Corinth by the rebels -- ineffectual operations of Halleck -- Halleck made General-in-chief -- he offers command of army of the Tennessee to Colonel Allen -- Allen declines it -- Grant then placed again in command -- military situation in September, 1862 -- Grant's force depleted -- enemy threatening -- Price seizes Iuka -- Grant's preparations to fight -- orders to Rosecrans and Ord -- battle of Iuka -- Rosecrans neglects Grant's orders -- rebels escape in consequence -- Grant's headquarters at Jackson -- rebels threaten Corinth -- strategy of Grant -- battle of Corinth -- rebels drive Rosecrans into Corinth -- final victory of Rosecrans -- enemy struck in flank by Ord -- Rosecrans does not follow up his success, although repeatedly ordered by Grant to pursue -- he finally obeys -- pursuit ineffectual -- return of Rosecrans -- results of Iuka and Corinth -- Rosecrans relieved and promoted -- relations of Grant with other officers -- Reflections -- Grant suggests movement against Vicksburg.

The results of the battle of Shiloh were not all military. Incorrect accounts were circulated throughout the North; those who had seen only what occurred at the rear, misrepresented the actions at the front; others, who were in a single part of the field, attempted to give accurate descriptions of the whole, which they had no opportunities of knowing. General Buell and some of his officers, arriving late and seeing only the fugitives at the Landing, thought and said that the entire Army of the Tennessee was overwhelmed and disgraced; and for a long while the [100] country was ignorant whether or not a great disaster had occurred. Rumors were industriously spread that Sherman had been surprised, that Prentiss was captured early in the morning, and in his shirt; that Grant was drunk, and that Buell was purposely dilatory. The country believed many of these rumors, and in the West especially, the outcry was fierce. The newspapers took up the theme; congressmen and politicians, some of them doubtless with pure intentions, and believing that they were seeking the best interests of the country, beset the President to relieve Grant entirely from command, and the fame that arose from Donelson was obscured by the unmerited odium of Shiloh.

Even Grant's military superiors seemed affected by the clamor. General Halleck, removing his headquarters to the field, superseded Grant, who was left second in command, it is true, but was quite ignored in all the operations of the next two months. The army was reinforced and divided into three corps, the right, left, and centre, of which Thomas, Pope, and Buell were placed in immediate command, while McClernand had the reserve. Grant still ostensibly commanded the District of West Tennessee, including his old army, which, however, was broken up into the right wing and reserve, and was therefore directly under Thomas and McClernand. Although the corps commanders were his subordinates, orders were constantly sent direct to them without Grant's being made acquainted with their contents, and movements were even executed by his own troops without his knowledge. In the army his situation was universally regarded as one of disgrace.1 This [101] was by very far the most disagreeable period in his entire career.

The national army moved slowly up towards Corinth from the battle-field of Shiloh, after Halleck arrived, making no advance except when protected by intrenchments. This was greatly to the dissatisfaction of both officers and men, to whom such operations were new, and seemed to savor of timidity. But Halleck had derived a lesson from the assaults of Shiloh, and the outcry in consequence; he was determined not to be attacked unawares, and collected his forces from every quarter of his immense depart. ment, concentrating a hundred and twenty thousand bayonets;2 yet it took him six weeks to advance less than fifteen miles, the enemy in all that while making no offensive movement; on the contrary, the rebels constructed defences still more elaborate than those behind which Halleck advanced. Beauregard's strength was estimated at seventy thousand; he himself reported it at forty-seven thousand, and the officers and men of the national army were anxious to avail themselves of their vast superiority in numbers. They believed, correctly, as was afterwards proved, that Beauregard was moving his troops from Corinth with a view to divide, and not to concentrate them. Grant shared this belief, and expressed it. Late in May, he was at Halleck's headquarters, when the probability of an evacuation of Corinth was discussed, and then made the only suggestion he ventured to offer during the siege. He recommended that an attack should be made on the extreme right of the [102] national line, west of W. T. Sherman's division. The enemy's defences in front of this point, he deemed defective, and urged an assault with a view of turning the rebel line, and then moving to the left and sweeping the entire field. But Halleck scouted the idea, intimating that Grant's opinions need not be expressed until they were called for. In accordance with this intimation, Grant did not again obtrude them.

On the 30th of May, Halleck announced to his command: ‘There is every indication that the enemy will attack our left this morning,’3 and the largest army ever assembled west of the Alleghanies, was accordingly drawn out in line of battle, awaiting an assault. But the rebels had already slipped out of Corinth, on the southern road, leaving wooden guns4 and barren defences to impose as long as possible on their enemy. Early in the day, however, the nakedness of the works and the silence of the batteries were discovered, and the national forces marched unmolested into the town. Beauregard's movement had begun several days before; his orders for the evacuation were dated the 20th of May, and his plans for the retreat, picked up among the wrecks of his camps, disclosed the fact that he had been striving to elude Halleck since the 9th of the same month.5 Soon [103] after entering the works, Grant rode to the rebel left, and satisfied himself beyond all doubt, that had an assault on Sherman's front been ordered, a good general could have demolished the rebel army. This was by far the weakest point of Beauregard's line, and in exactly the position to be susceptible to such an attack as Grant had recommended, in vain.

A great battle, which had been expected as the result of the collection of two vast armies at an important strategic point, was thus avoided—a battle which, if fought, could not have failed to prove fatal to the rebels. The enemy, however, abandoned the object of the campaign without the hazard of a fight, not choosing to risk the position and the army too. Shiloh had, indeed, been fought for the salvation of Corinth—fought and lost by the rebels, two months before, and the march of the national army from Pittsburg, was nothing more nor less than the pursuit of the rebel forces, beaten and demoralized during the second day's fight at Shiloh. The enemy, how [104] ever, being unmolested in his retreat, had rallied in a concentrated manner at Corinth, and in an order agreeable to the best rules of the art. He was followed by an army very materially reenforced after the victory of April 7th. All the time was taken that a new and unexplored country required, to develop its facilities for successful combat; every precaution was observed, to avoid the evil results of any suddenly offensive movement which the rebels might at any moment be inspired to make; miles and miles of intrenchments were successively thrown up and occupied; roads were cut in every conceivable direction, to facilitate the combined movements in the attack of a large army, or to secure a safe retreat in case of reverse.

In the mean while, the enemy surrounded his point of defence with an immense show of intrenchments and fortifications, and vaunted his readiness to receive combat at any moment; when, in fact, his parade of batteries, artillery, and magazines was little more than counterfeit, and his immense lines of earthwork remained as a mockery to his ability and his industry, unless the alternative is accepted that he never intended to defend them; for the moment he discovered Halleck ready to strike, he resumed his retreat, more demoralized than when he commenced it. The plan of his withdrawal seemed expressly calculated to facilitate the national forces in a successful pursuit: the roads were in admirable condition, and the country abounded in water; the troops were as anxious now to follow as they had been to fight during the siege. But the demoralized condition of the rebels, and the separation of their retreating forces, seemed not to be comprehended. The reports [105] of deserters and prisoners, daily coming inside the national lines, were apparently set at naught;6 nothing but a vast offensive power seemed to loom up before the magnified vision of the commander of this grand army; and an attack from the rebels was apparently the one thing apprehended by Halleck, from the time he set out from Pittsburg up to the final point of the pursuit.7

To cap the climax, Pope and Buell were successively sent out after the enemy. Buell was the rank. ing officer, and eventually took command. He formed a solid defensive line of battle, seventy thousand strong, reaching across the country from the vicinity of Booneville towards Blackland, at a moment when [106] it was obvious to his entire command that the bulk of the enemy's force had passed on, leaving a river behind, protected by an insignificant rear-guard. The seventy thousand remained two days, awaiting an assault from the retreating twenty thousand, and then, as it was discovered that the enemy had again escaped, the command was ordered back to Corinth, having marched out about thirty miles. During all these operations, Grant had been left in camp.

The ineffectual pursuit was terminated by the 10th of June, and Buell was then sent towards Chattanooga, the great strategic point in East Tennessee. Grant retained command of the District of West Tennessee, and made his headquarters at Memphis, which had fallen into the hands of the national forces, on the 6th of June, as the result of a fierce naval fight on the Mississippi river. At about the same time, Beauregard was relieved by Bragg, who soon afterwards started with a large force for Chattanooga, to intercept Buell.

And thus the great and tangible success, which was thrown so directly in General Halleck's path that it seemed impossible for any one even to avoid a victory, was allowed, nay, compelled, in his unskilful grasp, to dissolve away, like a shadow in the hands of him who stretches out to embrace what is not. Even after the rebels had eluded him at Corinth, it was possible, with Halleck's immense preponderance of force, to follow up and destroy the retreating enemy; and when this opportunity was also lost, by his subordinate and counterpart, the army that had been concentrated with so much care and labor, was still available for a concentrated campaign. Vicksburg was within reach, and comparatively defenceless; [107] a force might easily have been sent direct to its rear, and found no enemy of importance on the road; and the long expenditure of time and blood, the weary months spent in the amphibious siege, the unsuccessful assaults, might all have been saved. If Chattanooga was deemed the more important objective, Halleck had forces at his control sufficient to secure its possession, besides retaining every rood he had already acquired. He might have sent with Buell, men enough to place the seizure of that key to Eastern Tennessee beyond a doubt, and so have prevented the disasters both of Buell and Rosecrans's Chattanooga campaigns, and forestalled those other events, which, nearly two years later, made Grant, Halleck's own successor in supreme command.

But the great army was broken up, without having achieved any thing besides the occupation of a single town, which was indeed a strategic and important point; but none of the positive strategic advantages which its possession promised, were obtained. For a while, Halleck interrupted the rebel communications, and warded off attacks on his own rear; but Corinth, having once been acquired, never afterwards pre. sented a single offensive advantage, which the general who captured it suggested or procured.

In July, Pope was ordered to Virginia, and on the 17th of that month, Halleck was assigned to the command of all the armies, superseding McClellan. He repaired at once to Washington, and Grant was directed to establish his headquarters at Corinth. Grant's jurisdiction was not, however, enlarged by the promotion of Halleck: on the contrary, the new general-in-chief first offered the command of the Army of the Tennessee to Colonel Robert Allen, a quarter. [108] master, who declined it, whereupon it was allowed to remain under Grant.8 He was, however, left somewhat more independent than while Halleck had been immediately present in the field.

Four divisions of his army (including Thomas's command), were within the next two months ordered to Buell, who was stretching out slowly, like a huge, unwieldy snake, from Eastport to Decatur, and from Decatur towards Chattanooga. This subtraction put Grant entirely on the defensive. He had possession of Corinth,9 the strategic point, but was obliged to hold the railroads from that place and Bolivar, north to Columbus, which last, on account of the low water in the Tennessee, he had made his base of supplies. His task was a difficult one, in the face of an enemy nearly his equal in numbers, and who, having no fear of Grant's advance, was able to concentrate his own forces so as to threaten either of three important points, Corinth, Bolivar, or Jackson, in Tennessee. [109] Memphis was safe enough under Sherman, but Grant had to keep open his communication with that officer, by way of Columbus and the Mississippi. I have heard him describe his situation at this time, as quite as difficult and annoying as any that he held during the war. This was, indeed, the only period during the war, when he was for any length of time obliged to act on the defensive.

Jackson, in Tennessee, is at the junction of the Mississippi Central and the Mobile and Ohio railroads, and forms the apex of an irregular triangle, of which Corinth may be considered another angle, while Bolivar, to the west, is the third. After leaving a sufficient force for the defence of Memphis, Grant concentrated at these three points, as many of his troops as he could spare from guarding the rivers and railroads in his command. He remained himself eight weeks at Corinth, narrowly watching the enemy, who; commanded by Van Dorn and Price, harassed and threatened him continually. During this time, he directed the strengthening and remodelling of the fortifications of Corinth, which, although incomplete towards the west and north, were yet too extensive for defence by any but an enormous garrison. New works, closer to the town, were accordingly erected, under the supervision of Captain Prime, Grant's engineer officer, Major-General Ord being in command of the troops. Events rendered these works of great importance before many weeks had passed.

The attention of the country was, at this period, turned almost exclusively and with painful interest, to operations further east. In Virginia, McClellan and Pope were superseding each other and losing [110] battles and campaigns by turns, under Halleck's supreme command; while in Tennessee, Bragg, who had outmarched and outmanoeuvred Buell, reaching Chattanooga first, though starting last, was now racing with the same rival for Louisville and the Ohio. The North was thus threatened with invasion in Maryland and in Ohio at the same time. Every man that it was thought possible to take from Grant, had been sent to Buell, and the former was left to shift for himself, almost without troops, and (fortunately for the country), almost without orders.

Van Dorn at last determined to move part of his force (under Price), east of Grant, apparently with a view to crossing the Tennessee, and reinforcing Bragg in the Kentucky campaign. Grant notified Halleck of the probability of such a movement, and of his intention to prevent it, and was immediately warned by his chief to leave nothing undone to avert the catastrophe. Grant's dispatches at this time bear witness to the constant anxiety the rebels occasioned him, and to the necessity for a sleepless and stubborn vigilance. On the 9th of September, he said: ‘Should the enemy come, I will be as ready as possible with the means at hand. I do not believe that a force can be brought against us at present that cannot be successfully resisted.’

On the 13th, Price advanced from the south and seized Iuka, twenty-one miles east of Corinth; Colonel Murphy, who was in command, making no resistance, but evacuating the place on the approach of the enemy. Grant telegraphed to Halleck on the 15th: ‘If I can, I will attack Price before he crosses Bear creek. If he can be beaten there, it will pre. vent the design either to go north, or to unite forces [111] and attack here.’ Grant had called in his forces some days before to the vicinity of Corinth, had repeatedly cautioned all his commanders to hold their troops in readiness, and when the enemy's cavalry moved towards Iuka, and cut the railroad and telegraph wires between that place and Burnsville, seven miles to the westward, Grant began his operations. Price was at Iuka, and Van Dorn four days off, to the southwest, threatening Corinth. Grant's object was to destroy Price, before the two could concentrate, and then to get back to Corinth and protect it against Van Dorn.

He accordingly ordered Brigadier-General Rosecrans, whose troops were posted south of Corinth, to move by way of Rienzi, along the south side of the Memphis and Charleston railroad, and attack Iuka from that direction; while Major-General Ord, with a force brought hurriedly from Bolivar and Jackson, was to push towards Burnsville, and from there take roads on the north side of the railroad, attacking Iuka from that quarter. Ord had eight thousand men, and Rosecrans reported nine thousand, a greater force combined than Price had, according to Grant's estimate. Rosecrans suggested that his force should move northward from its eastern march in two columns, one on the Jacinto, the other on the Fulton road, in order to occupy Price's only line of retreat. To this Grant assented, and remained himself at Burnsville, where he could direct both wings of his army. He also kept Ord's troops at Burnsville as long as possible, with a train of empty cars, ready to hurry them back to Corinth, in case Van Dorn should attack that place, where all the national supplies and munitions were stored. [112]

On the 18th of September, Ord was pushed forward to within four miles of Iuka, where he found the enemy in force, on the north side of the town; and the same day, Rosecrans reported to Grant his readiness ‘to move up as close as we can to-night. . . Ord to advance from Burnsville, commence the attack and draw their attention that way, while I move in on the Jacinto and Fulton roads, massing heavily on the Fulton road, and crushing in their left, cutting off their retreat eastward. I propose to move in ten minutes for Jacinto.’ Grant ordered him to advance rapidly, and ‘let us do to-morrow all we can; it may be necessary to fall back the day following.’ The falling back was in the event of Van Dorn's attacking Corinth. This dispatch was dated fifteen minutes before seven P. M.; but, after midnight, Rosecrans sent word that he had been detained, and was still twenty miles from Iuka, and could not ‘be in,’ before one or two o'clock the next afternoon, the roads being in bad condition and the country thickly wooded. This greatly disappointed Grant, who had expected to fight on the morrow, early, and had supposed Rosecrans to be by this time far on his way to Iuka. He consequently directed Ord, who was quite ready to bring on an engagement in an hour's time, not to attack from the north until Rosecrans arrived, or until he should hear firing to the south. Rosecrans was notified, by his return messenger, of this change in Ord's instructions; but owing to the density of the forests and the difficulty of crossing the small streams and bottoms, all communication between Grant and Rosecrans was circuitous and delayed.

By half-past 4, on the afternoon of the 19th, Rosecrans, making a forced march, had arrived within [113] two miles of Iuka, moving only on the Jacinto or western road. A little north of Barnet's, the rebels were posted in force, and, unexpectedly to Rosecrans, they attacked the head of his marching column, driving it in, and checking his advance. The front was narrow, interrupted by ravines, and covered with a dense undergrowth; the enemy's position, on a hill, commanded the road by which the national forces were moving, and Rosecrans, not being able to develop his troops, lost a battery of artillery, the only one he got into action, besides seven hundred and thirty-six men in killed and wounded. The fighting was heavy, though confined almost entirely to Hamilton's division. Rosecrans, however, held his own until dark; but at ten and a half that night, he sent word to Grant, who was still at Burnsville, that it would be necessary to ‘attack in the morning and in force.’ ‘Push in on to them,’ he said, ‘until we can have time to do something.’10 Owing to the difficulties in communication, Grant did not receive this dispatch until thirty-five minutes past eight on the morning of the 20th, but the same moment he sent word to Ord, to attack as soon as possible, saying: ‘Unless you can create a diversion in Rosecrans's favor, he may find his hands full.’ The wind had blown heavily to the south [114] and east the day before, and no sound of the firing had reached Ord; during the night, however, he had got word of the battle from negroes, and so pushed on towards the town, in the morning, in advance of Grant's order. Soon afterwards, Grant himself learned that the enemy was in full retreat; had in fact left Iuka during the night, on the Fulton road, which it had been expressly arranged that Rosecrans was to occupy with Hamilton's division. Getting up late, however, he had failed to do this, and the rebels discovering how nearly they were surrounded by the concentration of Grant's forces, held Rosecrans in check on one road and escaped by night on the other, taking with them every thing except their wounded, and the artillery they had captured the day before. When Grant arrived at Iuka, at nine o'clock A. M., the pursuit was not yet begun. He at once gave orders to follow, but the enemy had already got so far that it was found impossible now to overtake him. This of course defeated Grant's plan of capturing or destroying Price's entire force. The Fulton road was the only avenue left open to the rebels, and had it also been closed, the result would have been complete. But if Price had intended to make his way across the Tennessee, or to hold his own until Van Dorn could come up, and then make a simultaneous attack on Corinth, he was foiled.11 [115]

Rosecrans reported the rebel loss at Iuka at fourteen hundred and thirty-eight.12

By the battle of Iuka, the enemy was simply checked in his plans, not seriously crippled in his force. Price moved around by a circuitous route and joined Van Dorn, and the same state of affairs continued, which had annoyed Grant for so many weeks. He put Rosecrans in command at Corinth, and Ord at Bolivar, and on the 23d of September, removed his own headquarters to Jackson, from which point he could communicate more readily with all points of his district, including Memphis and Cairo. The rebels were in force at La Grange and Ripley, and threatened both Bolivar and Corinth, and Grant was obliged to be in readiness at either place. Troops were still being detached from his command, notwithstanding these emergencies, and, on the 1st of October, he telegraphed to Washington: ‘My position is precarious, but I hope to get out of it all right.’

At last, it was rendered certain, by the removal of Price's cavalry from La Grange to Ripley, that Corinth was to be the place of attack. Grant thereupon directed Rosecrans to call in his forces, and sent Brigadier-General McPherson to his support from Jackson, with a brigade of troops hastily got together. The enemy evidently intended to attack on the northern side of the town, facing east and south, and cutting off Rosecrans from all reenforcements; [116] so Grant hurried Ord and Hurlbut by way of Pocahontas from Bolivar, forty-four miles away, to be ready to strike Van Dorn in flank or rear, as he advanced, and at least to create a diversion, if they could not get into the town.

On the 2d of October the rebel array, under Van Dorn, Price, Lovell, Villepigue, and Rust, appeared in front of Corinth. There was some preliminary skirmishing on that day, and, on the 3d, the fighting began in earnest. Rosecrans had about nineteen thousand men, and the enemy had collected thirty-eight thousand13 for this important movement, which was to determine the possession of northern Mississippi and West Tennessee. Rosecrans pushed out about five miles, towards Chewalla, Grant having ordered him to attack, if opportunity offered; but the enemy began the fight, and, on the afternoon of the 3d, the battle turned in favor of Van Dorn. Rosecrans was driven back to his defences on the north side of Corinth, and it was now found how important was the labor bestowed on these fortifications, by Grant's order, a month previous. The enemy was checked until morning; but, early on the 4th, the whole rebel army, flushed with the success of the day before, assaulted the works. The fighting was fierce; the rebels charging almost into the town, when an unexpected fire from the forts drove them back in confusion. Again and again, they advanced to the works, but each time were received with a determination equal to their own. Once, the national troops came near giving way entirely, but Rosecrans rallied [117] them in person, and the rebels were finally repulsed before noon, with a loss admitted by themselves to be double that of Rosecrans.14

The national loss was three hundred and fifteen killed, eighteen hundred and twelve wounded, and two hundred and thirty-two prisoners and missing. Rosecrans reported the rebel dead at fourteen hundred and twenty-three, and took two thousand two hundred and twenty-five prisoners, representing sixty-nine regiments and thirteen light batteries; many of the prisoners were wounded. The disparity in losses was doubtless occasioned by the fact that a portion of the national troops fought behind intrenched batteries.

McPherson arrived from Jackson during the fight, coming up in the rear of the enemy; and, being unable to get to the support of the garrison in any other way, made a brilliant march around the rebel flank, bringing in his brigade, at the close of the battle, on the right of Rosecrans. His presence, then, was too late to have more than a moral effect, but the enemy knew of his approach, and had also encountered the advance of Hurlbut's column, the day before. The knowledge of these reenforcements , however, seemed only to stimulate Van Dorn to a more desperate effort. The repulse was complete, by eleven o'clock in the morning, but unfortunately was not followed up by Rosecrans, till the next day. The rebels, however, started off in haste and disorder immediately after the fight; and on the 5th, while in full retreat, were [118] struck in flank, as Grant had planned, by Hurlbut and Ord, and the disaster was rendered final.

This occurred early on the morning of the 5th, at the crossing of the Hatchie river, about ten miles from Corinth. The retreating force fell in with Ord's column, four thousand strong, just beyond Davis's bridge. The rebel advance got across the river without resistance, but was speedily driven back, and with loss; a battery of artillery and several hundred men were captured, and the advance was dispersed or drowned. Ord pushed on in pursuit, passed over the bridge, and met the whole of Van Dorn's column, on the other side; but, though not strong enough to attack the entire rebel army even in retreat, Ord held the crossing, and obliged the enemy, who had no time to spare, to make a detour of six or seven miles, before he could reach another bridge. Ord was seriously wounded in the fight, and the command then devolved on Hurlbut, who did not attempt a pursuit.

Grant had notified Rosecrans, in advance, of the movement of Hurlbut and Ord, and, anticipating the victory at Corinth, had directed that commander to push on instantly after his success, if necessary, even to Bolivar; for, if Ord's little force encountered the whole rebel army, the danger would be great, unless Rosecrans followed up rapidly. But the troops were fatigued by two days fight, and Rosecrans contented himself with riding over the field to announce in person his victory. At noon of the 4th, he gave directions to rest that day, and move in pursuit on the morrow.15 When he reported his action to Grant, [119] the latter, greatly disappointed at the delay, again issued peremptory orders to push on at once after the enemy.

Rosecrans started out on the morning of the 5th, but was misinformed or misled, and took the road towards Chewalla, instead of that further south, by which the enemy had moved. After marching about eight miles out of the way, he discovered his blunder, and turned his column towards the Hatchie. Meanwhile, the fight with Ord for the crossing had occurred, and the rebels had been driven six miles away, to a second bridge higher up the stream. This bridge, at Crum's mills, was narrow and long, and stretched over a wide and swampy bottom, impassable for troops. It, in fact, formed a defile, along which the entire rebel army was obliged to march. Had Rosecrans moved promptly the day before, he would have come up in the rear of Van Dorn, either as he was fighting Ord, or while attempting to pass this defile. In either event, the destruction of the rebels must have been complete; but the national forces arrived at the Hatchie, just as the rear-guard of the enemy had crossed. Rosecrans, from here, sent word again to Grant of the condition of affairs, and Grant decided that the favorable opportunity had been lost; Rosecrans, however, now urged that he should be permitted to advance, but Grant declined to allow it. He considered that Van Dorn had got too much of a start to leave any well-founded hope of overtaking him, especially as heavy rains had set in, rendering the roads almost impassable. The [120] troops were without supplies, and, at that time, the secret of living from an enemy's country had not been learned. Rosecrans was therefore recalled, having marched out from Corinth about thirty miles, but not caught up with the enemy.16

In both the battles of Iuka and Corinth, Grant directed the movements, until the troops arrived in the actual presence of the enemy, although in the former, he was about eight miles from the field, and in the latter, nearly forty. As has been shown, he was not always obeyed.

These two fights relieved the command of West Tennessee from all immediate danger, and recalled the attention of the country and the government to this portion of the theatre of war. The disasters at the East were in a measure retrieved, by the Western successes, and the public feeling was improved. Grant, however, did not receive the credit which was his due for conceiving and directing the movements; but Rosecrans was made a major-general of volunteers, and ordered to the command of the Army of the Cumberland. This change, though not suggested by Grant, gave him great relief, as the subordinate had disappointed the expectations of his superior.

The truth is, that Grant's extreme simplicity of behavior and directness of expression imposed on [121] various officers, both above and below him. They thought him a good, plain man, who had blundered into one or two successes, and, who, therefore, could not be immediately removed; but they deemed it unnecessary to regard his judgment, or to count upon his ability. His superiors made their plans invariably without consulting him, and his subordinates sometimes sought to carry out their own campaigns, in opposition or indifference to his orders, not doubting, that, with their superior intelligence, they could conceive and execute triumphs which would excuse or even vindicate their course. It is impossible to understand the early history of the war, without taking it into account, that neither the government nor its important commanders gave Grant credit for intellectual ability or military genius.

His other qualities were also rated low. Because he was patient, some thought it impossible to provoke him; and because of his calmness, it was supposed that he was stolid. In battle, or in campaigning, he did not seem to care or consider so much what the enemy was doing as what he himself meant to do; and this trait, to enthusiastic and even brilliant soldiers, appeared inexplicable. A great commander, it was imagined, should be nervous, excitable, inspiring his men and captivating his officers; calling private soldiers by their names, making eloquent addresses in the field, and waving his drawn sword in battle. Great commanders had done all these things, and won; and many men, who could do all these things, fancied themselves therefore great commanders. Others imagined wisdom to consist in science alone; they sought success in learned and elaborate plans, requiring months to develop when the enemy [122] was immediately before them; they manoeuvred when it was the time to fight; they intrenched when they should have attacked, and studied their books when the field should have been their only problem. Grant was like none of these. If he possessed acquirements, he appeared unconscious of them; he made no allusion to the schools, and never hesitated to transgress their rules, when the occasion seemed to him to demand it. So, he neither won men's hearts by blandishments, nor affected their imaginations by brilliancy of behavior; nor did he seem profound, to those who are impressed only by a display of learning. All these things should be appreciated by those who seek to understand his character or career.

In the latter part of October, reenforcements having been sent him from the Northwest, he suggested to Halleck a movement into the interior of Mississippi, with a view to the capture of Vicksburg.

1 I joined the army before Corinth, in May, 1862, as aide-de-camp to a division commander, and at once noticed the general impressior among officers that Grant was under a cloud.

2 See field returns of Halleck's forces at Corinth.

3 ‘There is every indication that the enemy will attack our left this morning, as troops have been moving in that direction for some time. It will be well to make preparation to send as many of the reserves as can be spared of the right wing in that direction, as soon as an attack is made in force. At any rate be prepared for an order to that effect.’

4 I saw many wooden guns in the works at Corinth, when Beauregard abandoned the place.

5 On one of the first days of June, 1862, a paper was forwarded by Brigadier-General Speed S. Fry, a brigade commander, to his immediate superior, Brigadier-General T. W. Sherman, commanding a division in the Army of the Tennessee. General Sherman the same day sent it by me, to General Pope's headquarters in the field. It read as follows:


headquarters, Corinth, May 9, 1862.
General: In case we have to retire from this position, your army will follow the best road in the direction of Kossuth, via the Female College; and when about two or three miles from that town, a part of your forces, say a corps, will move to Danville, and another corps will move on the road to Kossuth, until it meets the one to Rienzi, when it will move on to the latter place. Depots of provisions, etc., have been made at Okolona and Columbus.

One of your divisions or corps can continue to Ripley, thence to Oxford, and thence to Grenada, for the protection of that depot.

———,General Commanding. To General B. Bragg, Commanding Army of the Mississippi (For the information of MajorGeneral Van Dorn.)

6 In a report of the operations of his division during the siege of Corinth, Brigadier-General T. W. Sherman speaks thus of a reconnoissance in force made by his command on the 15th of May: ‘The result of this reconnoissance was reported to your headquarters’ [those of Major-General Thomas, commanding right wing], ‘together with the information obtained from the prisoners, among which was the important fact that the rebel commander had issued orders the day before, that all baggage of the troops, except what could be carried in knapsacks, was to be immediately sent by the Mobile and Ohio railroad to Okolona.’

A private note from General Sherman, of October 18, 1866, states: ‘My report is not sufficiently strong in the case of the information obtained in my reconnaissance on the 15th of May. All the men who were taken equally declared that General Beauregard had issued an order the day before, for all property at Corinth, except the contents of the knapsacks and a certain amount of provisions, to be sent down to Okolona. A written report was made to me of this fact, and the prisoners were sent forward to confirm the statement.’

7 Many of the points in the criticism of this campaign were suggested to me at the time by a report of Brigadier-General T. W. Sherman, on whose staff I was then serving in Halleck's army. The report was forwarded through the regular channel, but returned to its author, with a rebuke for indulging in criticism of his commanding officer. If the rebuke was just, the criticism is equally so, and proves that from various points of view the same conclusion was reached, in regard to this campaign.

8 A letter from General Allen, dated July 9th, 1866, says: ‘I had joined General Halleck a short time subsequent to the fall of Corinth, and was attached to his immediate command, when he received his appointment of general-in-chief, with orders to repair at once to Washington. Shortly after he came to my tent. . . . After a somewhat protracted conversation he turned to me and said: “Now what can I do for you?” I replied that I did not know that he could do any thing. “Yes,” he rejoined, “I can give you command of this army.” I replied: “I have not rank.” “That,” said he, “can easily be obtained.” I do not remember exactly what my reply was to this, but it was to the effect that I doubted the expediency of such a measure, identified as I was with the enormous business and expenditures of the quartermaster's department, from which it was almost impracticable to relieve me at that time. Other reasons were mentioned, and he did not press the subject. It is true that I was congratulated on the prospect of succeeding to the command, before I had mentioned the subject of this interview.’

9 The map of Operations in Kentucky and Tennessee illustrates this position.


headquarters army of the Mississippi, two miles South of Iuka, September 19, 1862—10 1/2 P. M.
MajorGeneral U. S. Grant:
General—We met the enemy in force just above this point. The engagement lasted several hours. We have lost two or three pieces of artillery. Firing was very heavy. You must attack in the morning and in force. The ground is horrid, unknown to us, and no room for development. Couldn't use our artillery at all; fired but few shots. Push in on to them until we can have time to do something. We will try to get a position on our right which will take Iuka.

W. S. Rosecrans, Brigadier-General.

11 Since the close of the war, Colonel Thompson, late of the rebel army, has stated to General Ord, his brother-in-law, that the movement of Rosecrans on a single road, his strength and the condition of his force, and the fact that the Fulton road, south, was left open, were betrayed to Price, on the afternoon of the fight, by Dr. Burton, a rebel assistant surgeon of Claiborne's regiment. This doctor informed Colonel Thompson that he had secured the confidence of Rosecrans, and been employed by him as a scout and spy; had remained with him on the 19th, until he saw the route pursued by Rosecrans towards Iuka, and the condition of his column. He then left the national army, and hurried into town to give the information to Price. That general at once withdrew all his force from Ord's front, and attacked and held Rosecrans, coming up from the south on one road, while the rebels evacuated the town, passing within a mile and a half of Rosecrans, on the other.

12 I have seen no rebel official statement of Price's loss.

13 Rosecrans states the enemy's force to have been thirty-eight thousand ‘by their own accounts.’ I am unable to say how he learned this.

14 In Van Dorn and Lovell's commands alone, the rebels lost five thousand four hundred and twenty-eight men; of whom more than three thousand were killed or wounded. I can find no return of Price's loss; and no complete rebel report of the battles of Iuka or Corinth is in possession of the government.


I rode all over our lines announcing the result of the fight in person, and notified our victorious troops that after two days fighting, two almost sleepless nights of preparation, movements, and march, I wished them to replenish their cartridge-boxes, haversacks, and stomachs, take early sleep, and start in pursuit by daylight. Rosecrans's Report.

16 An intercepted letter from a spy of Van Dorn, a young woman named Burton, residing in Corinth, was written before the reconstruction of the fortifications in September. This communication described the weakness of the northwest front, and declared, what was then true, that the principal works were too far out for defence, and that the troops were all on the southern side. The letter was copied, and forwarded by General Ord to its original destination, and great pains were taken thereafter to prevent the transmission of further information. The rebel attack, on the front indicated by Miss Burton, suggests that Van Dorn may have acted on her reports, to his own destruction.

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